Paul's teaching of the Lord's Supper : a socio-historical study of the Pauline account of the Last Supper and its Graeco-Roman background
The Lord's Supper was understood as a memorial of Christ's sacrificial death on the basis of a tradition handed down to the Corinthians by Paul, who reminded them of its real significance based on Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples. Paul makes it clear that the Corinthians are not maintaining the Christian tradition associated with the Lord's Supper. The main focus in 1 Corinthians 11 is behaviour that calls for correction. The problem is that socio-cultural customs prevailed over Christian distinctives at the Meal. The Corinthians behaved in accordance with the social norms of the Graeco-Roman society. In I Corinthians 11: 17-26 Paul highlights and summarizes directives to regulate the church's practice. A careful exegesis of these verses provides a basis for the explanation of the whole of chapter 11. The examination of previous works in chapters 2 and 3 indicates that scholars disagree on the influence of mystery religious meals and social meals in the Graeco- Roman world on the Lord's Supper. However, the social customs in the church demonstrate that the Corinthian practice of the Lord's Supper was in tune with the common practice of the Graeco-Roman society. For instance, the eranos meal (a common social meal in the Hellenistic world) at Corinth was a "potluck dinner.” Chapter 4 attempts to reconstruct aspects of the social setting that affected Corinthian attitudes. For both the weak and the strong Christians, eating meat sacrificed to idols created problems (I Cor. 8,10). A gluttony and drunkenness on the part of the richer and socially more powerful members created tension between groups. Paul attempted to correct the problem and promote social integration rather than divisiveness. The exegesis in chapters 5 and 6 suggests that the Lord's Supper as a rite was not intended to be a personal or social meal only for a special group, but a meal for the benefit and fellowship of the whole church. As it has been proposed in this thesis, the tension at the Lord's Supper in the Corinthian Church was mainly caused by the difficulty of some of the members' adapting to their new social and religious community.